Spain creates nearly 600,000 jobs in a year, but unemployment rises in first quarter

New data shows jobless rate has inched up to 14.7%, but minister says seasonal factors are to blame

A waitress at a bar in Valencia.
A waitress at a bar in Valencia.MÓNICA TORRES

The Spanish labor market is proving to be more resilient than most people expected at a time of internal and external uncertainty. While unemployment grew in the first quarter of 2019, the Spanish economy has created 596,900 jobs over the past 12 months, representing a 3.14% increase, according to data released on Thursday by the National Statistics Institute (INE). This is the highest figure for a one-year period since the summer of 2007, before the start of the economic crisis.

Nearly 26% of Spain’s workers are on temporary contracts

In the first three months of the year, there were 19.5 million people in employment and 3.35 million out of a job, putting the jobless rate at 14.7%. There were an additional 49,900 people filing for unemployment benefits between January and March, the biggest quarterly increase since 2013.

The quarterly figures are influenced by the fact that the Easter holiday – which represents a peak in seasonal hiring – came late this year. Last year, Easter was observed in March. The INE also offers seasonally adjusted figures, which show that unemployment fell by 2.92% during the three-month period.

No signs of a slowdown

Economy Minister Nadia Calviño said the new figures “confirm the positive evolution of the Spanish labor market in the last few quarters.”

Calviño played down the fact that the unemployment rate has inched up from 14.45% in the last quarter of 2018 to 14.7% in the first three months of 2019. The minister said that first-quarter results are typically worse because of seasonal factors.

The quarterly figures are influenced by the fact that the Easter holiday came late this year

Calviño said the first-quarter figures should be compared with the same period last year, and noted that job creation is doing well. She said there are no signs of a slowdown in the labor market and that she hopes to end this year with an unemployment rate of 14% or less. Six years ago, this figure reached a historic high of 26.9%.

Nearly 26% of Spain’s workers are on temporary contracts, while 12,124,000 people had open-ended contracts in the first quarter.

The services sector continued to drive job creation with 429,400 new positions in the last 12 months. Construction added 129,500 workers and industry made 32,100 new hirings. Public employment grew by 107,900 employees.

English version by Susana Urra.

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